While Betsy was in China and Jim was holding down the fort at OOTJ, I was attending my daughter's college graduation and vacationing in France (two and a half weeks) as well as several days in Germany. The weather was mostly clear, but surprisingly cold for this time of year. This was our first time back in France in thirty years, and I was struck by how much more diverse the population seems to be. Before our departure, I had spent a lot of time working on my rusty French with the Rosetta Stone program, and found that I got more from the lessons than I thought I had--speaking and listening were fairly easy, and this enhanced my experience. After spending time in Paris, we headed to Alsace-Lorraine and over to Germany. Some highlights: the Code of Hammurabi at the Louvre Museum (and seeing the renovations made to the Museum itself, which seem to work very well); attending a concert at Sainte-Chappelle, an exquisite jewel box known for its walls of stained glass, which literally took my breath away when I walked in (the interior is shown above, but the picture doesn't do it justice); riding a cable car in Germany and walking in the Black Forest; hiking in the Vosges Mountains in France and coming upon the ruins of a twelfth-century castle perched high on a mountain top; visiting stunning Gothic cathedrals in Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg, and Freiburg; eating Quiche Lorraine in Lorraine; attending a ballet performance at the Paris Opera and luxuriating in the over-the-top interior design; walking in Paris and remembering all over again how beautiful it is; strolling in the fabulous formal gardens at the chateau of Vaux le Vicomte. I returned to work early last week with the performance appraisal process in full swing and demanding a good deal of my attention. Now that that is somewhat under control, I should be able to blog more regularly.